Standard Club warns that seafarer discontent is storing up longer-term problems

Standard Club’s Director of Loss Prevention Yves Vandenborn has noted that a serious seafarer recruitment and retention crisis was looming unless governments and ship managers took steps to allow more shore time and improve conditions onboard ships.

The release of the 2021 Seafarers Happiness Index on January 26th showed that seafarer happiness levels had reached an all-time low, driven by the extra strain of spending months aboard without any shore time as Covid restrictions bit.

The report is based on thousands of anonymized responses to 10 key questions. It is compiled quarterly by the welfare charity Mission to Seafarers, with support from Standard Club and ship manager Wallem.

The latest report describes “an increasingly demoralized workforce already facing heavy workloads and variable conditions aboard feeling the pressure of the lack of shore time, coupled with perceived low wages” said Vandenborn.

“We are sleepwalking to a manning crisis. Resentment is brewing amongst this critical workforce due to the lack of shore leave, uncertainty of trip duration, draconian Covid testing and general lack of recognition”, the Standard Club executive said.

He noted that, despite the efforts of the international maritime community over the past two years, seafarers were still not designated as key workers. Standard Club, a signatory to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, said that it was once again calling on authorities around the world to assign key worker status to the global seafaring workforce to facilitate crew changes and support the logistics of crew travel.

The Club also urged the wider industry to prioritize seafarers’ conditions. “Whilst shore-leave and travel restrictions are out of the hands of shipping companies, life onboard is not and varies widely across the industry”, Vandenborn said.